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A greener economy can be positive for workers too

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The taskforce’s recommendations show the way to high quality green jobs

The government’s independent Green Jobs Taskforce launched its final report today

‘The Taskforce’ – which includes representatives from the TUC and Prospect as well as industry and academia – was set up to ensure that the climate transition delivers quality jobs and leaves no workers behind. 

The government has set an ambition for 2 million green jobs by 2030 – jobs in insulating homes, making electric vehicles, rolling out wind turbines. 

But there have been concerns that the climate action we’ve seen to date has delivered too few jobs in the UK, and that some of them are low quality. We can’t assume that green jobs will automatically be safe and decently-paid. 

The Green Jobs Taskforce was set up to rectify this and work out a plan of action to ensure every part of the country gets good green jobs – jobs that help us get to net zero, with decent pay and conditions too.  

Jobs that you can build a life and a career on.  

Building a Green Industrial Revolution 

The Taskforce sets out 15 recommendations, including steps the government can take to ensure high quality green jobs are created in the UK: 

  • A new national body to ensure the climate transition delivers on jobs and leaves no worker behind. It should monitor, drive and report on the creation and transition to quality green jobs and skills, be supported by analytical capacity, and include unions and industry alongside government. The national body should be supported by local transition bodies to plan and manage the changes in their local areas. This recommendation could take the form of the TUC’s long-standing call for a Just Transition Commission including unions, government and employers.  

  • The government should set out how it will ensure green jobs are good, regardless of whether a job is considered ‘highly-skilled’ or not. This should include a plan for using government levers such as regulation, licensing, financing and procurement, promotion of framework agreements, sectoral bargaining, industry-wide pay agreements, and wider legislation on employment rights and health & safety. 

  • The government should expand its green recovery programmes for rapid job creation and scale investment up in line with G7 peers and extended to 2030. This would create opportunities for the UK to go further on nature restoration, energy efficiency retrofits for homes, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, zero carbon home construction and sustainable agriculture. The UK’s government’s green jobs and recovery plans lag far behind most G7 countries. Expanding unemployment schemes like Kickstart would help more people into green apprenticeships, including through wage subsidies. Furthermore, analysis done for Friends of the Earth by Transition Economics showed the potential for 250,000 green apprenticeships over the next three years.  

  • The government should use its net zero policy and funding to support job creation, skills, equality & diversity and the development of local supply chains. The government should look into integrating a principle to support green job creation across its major net zero investments. 

Delivering a Just Transition 

New jobs in new industries are only part of the future. The UK also needs to protect existing workers in industries that need to decarbonise.  

The Taskforce set out recommendations to support high-carbon workers and communities to transition successfully, with equal or improved working conditions in a zero carbon economy: 

  • Greater public investment is needed to decarbonise and retool UK industry and supply chains, to protect local jobs and economies and maintain international competitiveness. This is especially important for high carbon sectors already impacted by the transition, e.g. steel production. If employers wait for decarbonisation pathways to be developed elsewhere and costs to come down, this risks negative ramifications for local skilled workers and the UK’s productivity and economy. 

  • Barriers to retraining and upskilling need to be removed, so that no worker is left behind by the net zero transition. Innovative approaches need to be tested, including paid-time-off-to-train and training sabbaticals. 

  • Industry needs to ensure mutual recognition of training certification and supply chain standards across sectors, to ease transfer of workers between businesses and sectors and maximise use of existing skills. This should include commitments to skills ‘passporting’ for the offshore oil and offshore wind sectors by 2022.  

  • High carbon industries receiving government funding should prepare mandatory ‘Just Transition Agreements’, negotiated with their workforce. Protecting job quality in existing sectors requires giving workers and their unions a voice in how we make those jobs part of our net zero future.  Important lessons can be learnt from the collaboration between EDF and Unite, Prospect and GMB in the successful creation of transition pathways for workers at Cottam coal power station before its closure. 

  • Where local economies depend on high carbon local employment that can’t be transitioned, the UK should provide funding equivalent to the EU’s ‘Just Transition Fund’ to support communities to diversify and develop alternative industries. 

Turning vision into reality 

The Green Jobs Taskforce has highlighted both the opportunities and risks for jobs from the climate transition. It lays out a clear pathway – including a timeline of milestones over the next year – to delivering a jobs-rich future. 

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak, who sat on the Taskforce, said: “The government should read this report carefully – and implement it in full. It shows that net zero can be delivered alongside security and opportunity for working people.”  

Prospect senior deputy general secretary Sue Ferns, who was also a Taskforce member, added “The drive for Net Zero is not only essential for the future of the planet, it has the potential to usher in a new wave of good quality, high-skilled jobs right across the country. But this won’t happen without coordinated action from government, industry, and trade unions.  

“It is now up to government to show leadership, back these policies, and take a big step towards the cleaner and fairer future we all want to see.”  

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